India court allows Modi’s BJP to form state government despite lacking majority

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses party supporters during a celebration event in New Delhi on Tuesday, May 15. (AFP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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India court allows Modi’s BJP to form state government despite lacking majority

NEW DELHI: A leader from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party was sworn in as chief minister of a key southern Indian state on Thursday, despite lacking a majority, after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute bid to block the move.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the biggest winner in the Karnataka state election but has fallen short of a majority, sparking a scramble for power between the party and its arch rival Congress.
The Congress party, which lost sole control of the state in Saturday’s election, tried to stop the BJP’s B.S. Yeddyurappa from taking the oath as chief minister by stitching up a last-minute coalition with a smaller regional party.
But the BJP argued that it should get the first chance to form a government as it is the largest party and state governor Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala gave it 15 days to prove it has a majority, prompting the Congress to go to court.
Following a three-hour hearing that began around midnight, the Supreme Court rejected the Congress claim that it already had a majority by joining hands with the smaller Janata Dal (Secular) party.
The BJP won 104 seats in the 224-member assembly, nine short of a majority. Congress fell to 78 seats from 122 in the previous election. It has offered to support Janata Dal that won 37 seats.
Congress and Janata Dal also claim to have the support of two independents and have accused the BJP of trying to bribe their members to switch sides.
Janata Dal leader H.D. Kumaraswamy said the BJP had offered $15 million each to as many as 32 lawmakers. The BJP denies the claims.
Congress is desperate to cling on to Karnataka, its last major bastion after being defeated in 12 state elections since it lost the national government to Modi in 2014.
Its leader Rahul Gandhi, scion of India’s famed Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has still not won a state election since he took over from his mother Sonia Gandhi last year.
With national elections due next year, state polls are being closely watched by both parties.


More than 100 China experts urge China to release Canadians

In this file photo an undated picture released on December 11, 2018 in Washington by the International Crisis Group shows former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig. (AFP)
Updated 57 min 37 sec ago
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More than 100 China experts urge China to release Canadians

  • More than 20 diplomats from seven countries and more than 100 scholars and academics from 19 countries signed

TORONTO: More than 100 academics and former diplomats are calling on China to release two Canadians who have been detained in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive in Canada.
The letter by a wide array of China experts from around the world is addressed to Chinese President Xi Jinping. It says the arrests of the two Canadians sends a worrisome signal to those who work in policy and research in China.
China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of US authorities.
Meng is the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder. The US wants her extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
The letter, released Monday, notes Kovrig is a former diplomat who was working as an expert on Asia for the International Crisis Group think tank. It notes that Spavor devoted his time to building relationships between North Korea and China, Canada and United States.
It praises Kovrig and Spavor as bridge-builders between China and the world and said their arrests make writers “more cautious” about traveling to China.
“Meetings and exchanges are the foundation of serious research and diplomacy around the world, including for Chinese scholars and diplomats,” the letter says. “Kovrig and Spavor’s detentions send a message that this kind of constructive work is unwelcome and even risky in China.”
The letter said the arrests will lead to “less dialogue and greater distrust, and undermine efforts to manage disagreements and identify common ground. Both China and the rest of the world will be worse off as a result.”
More than 20 diplomats from seven countries and more than 100 scholars and academics from 19 countries signed.
Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, signed the letter and noted it comes as Canada is working to rally international support for the case.
“It will be noticed in Beijing and I hope that it will make clear for them that the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor are not only a China-Canada problem but it’s also having an impact on the image of and reputation of China,” Saint-Jacques said. “It’s an impressive list.”
The signatories include former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and Chris Patten, former British governor of Hong Kong. Two former US ambassadors to China, Gary Locke and Winston Lord, also signed.
David Mulroney, another former Canadian ambassador to China, said the letter is significant because it shows the international breadth of support for the two men.
“This isn’t simply a Canada-China dispute,” Mulroney said. “A lot of serious people, including many who have spent years working in China, are worried about how it is closing itself off, and punishing those who seek to understand and interpret it for others.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he encourages friends and allies around the world to point out that all countries should stand up for the rule of law.